What Could Be Lost With a 'Child's Play' Remake

Child's Play Still - Photofest - H 2018
Courtesy of Photofest
The killer doll series is one of the few from the '80s that's kept its original continuity, and it's hard to imagine moving on from that.

He’s been burned. He’s been shot. He’s been blown apart. He’s been dismembered. And now, Chucky, the living doll, will have to withstand his most brutal attack yet. He’s being rebooted. The news broke Tuesday that MGM has put a Child’s Play reboot on the fast-track, with director Lars Klevberg set to begin filming in Vancouver this fall. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Tom Holland’s 1988 film centered on a doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer — a concept that has had a surprising amount of mileage over those three decades as the cherubic Good Guy doll who chilled audiences with “Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna Play?” has become a scarred and foul-mouthed little monster.

While discussions of a Child’s Play reboot have been bounced around for years, the news comes as something of a surprise given that the Child’s Play franchise, since rebranded as the Chucky franchise, is still ongoing, and stronger than ever. As one of the few horror franchise’s to be born out of the era to hold onto a single continuity, the news of a reboot feels like a blow to horror fans.

The seven-film series has left theaters, as the last two entries, Curse of Chucky (2013) and Cult of Chucky (2017), were released on DTV and VOD formats. Although he may no longer be the theatrical event he once was, Chucky has found plenty of creative and critical success on the small-screen. There’s a cult kinship to the property now, with Don Mancini, who has written all of the Child’s Play movies and took over directing duties starting with Seed of Chucky (2004), shepherding the franchise and turning it into a family affair. Brad Dourif, who has played Charles Lee Ray (Aka Chucky) from the beginning, was joined by his daughter Fiona Dourif in Curse, where she portrayed the series’ new heroine Nica. Along Chucky’s wife Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), who as introduced in Bride of Chucky (1998), and his original fixation, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent), who returned after the first two entries in Cult, the Child’s Play series has established a carnival-esque camaraderie that has been rewarding to its performers and long-time fans. While slasher movies and '80s horror properties have struggled in the current decade, the Chucky series has survived by appealing to its fanbase, and recognizing that '80s nostalgia doesn’t have to be an ongoing franchise’s suicide run, but can be an opportunity to build something better from past.

Curse of Chucky masked itself as a reboot, with its marketing materials showcasing the doll sans all the scars and stitches he had acquired across the previous five entries. Ultimately, the film was revealed to be a sequel, one that took a step back from the more comedic leanings of Bride and Seed and opted for the challenge of making Chucky scary again without disregarding everything that came before. In a film industry of omitted sequels and fresh-starts, Mancini has proven that he’s up to the task of making every entry matter and build upon the last. Mancini took that challenge to a macro level in Cult of Chucky, which saw the killer able to split his soul between multiple host bodies, setting up for a Chucky universe with various dolls on the prowl. With Mancini’s recent announcement that he’s developing a Child’s Play TV series, along with more film sequels to follow Cult, the reboot, said to feature a group of kids facing off against a technologically advanced version of the dolls seems like a step back if it’s not making use of Mancini’s set-up in some way.

Reboots and remakes, particularly those concerning the horror genre, aren’t inherently bad. We’ve seen enough of strong examples, like The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), Evil Dead (2013) over the years to offset the poor ones like A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) Poltergeist (2015). And this fall we have a Halloween and Suspiria quasi-sequel and reboot to look forward to, which if the trailers are any indication will ultimately fall in the strong example camp. With the producers of It onboard the Child’s Play reboot, optimism seems warranted.

But there’s something special about a franchise that can use its established mythology in a way that still surprises, and can even take the uglier parts of its lesser entries and ultimately utilize them as their strength. This is exactly what the Child’s Play franchise has done by expanding the concept of a killer doll into broader horror movies that tackle family, gender-identity, physical handicaps, mental illness, and body horror by channeling filmmakers like James Whale, John Waters, and Milos Forman, among others. The films have used horror to make us laugh, and humor to disturb, and in bucking tonal trends and conventions, the Child’s Play series survives, surprisingly, as one of the most unique franchise’s to fall under the umbrella of horror. Hopefully, regardless of a reboot, Mancini will still be allowed to continue the cinematic universe that he’s put so much time, love, and craft into, because if not, well then we’re not so sure we wanna play.